September 19, 2011
With runoff rules for central coast growers, known as the ag waiver, more than two years expired and thrice extended, the regulators responsible for enforcing the ag waiver are making a decisive move toward doing just that: enforcing.
The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board today issued about 800 letters to growers who failed to submit updated information on their farming operations. If growers do not update basic information about their farms like acreage and crops, they can face fines of $1,000 a day for every day of violation.
This action is simply about ensuring the water board has up-to-date information on the growers that sign on to be monitored as a collective, rather than as individual polluters. Besides simply enrolling, growers must implement a farm water quality management plan and practices that improve water quality, in addition to monitoring on completing water quality education.
It's not the first time the water board has taken an enforcement action of this nature, but now it represents a step toward heightened monitoring. "We’re trying to improve the way we track growers," says Angela Schroeter, manager of the agricultural regulatory program.
And growers can expect to see ramped up enforcement down the road. "Due to the delays in the renewal of the [ag waiver]," Schroeter adds, "our focus is now on implementing the existing order. We’re just switching our resources."
An additional 1,500 letters went to growers who did comply, reminding them that information must be updated at least annually; they have until Oct. 15 to provide those updates.
The current extension on the ag waiver expires at the end of this month. The executive director of the water board is expected to call for yet another extension, despite controversy as to whether a full voting board is needed to agree on an extension. It remains uncertain whether Gov. Jerry Brown plans to appoint board members to fill existing vacancies, or potentially restructure the water boards substantially.